Tuesday is a day that 11-year-old Christina Catalano will not forget anytime soon. She made a new friend, professional football player Torrey Smith.
The Galena Elementary School fifth-grader and the Baltimore Ravens wide-receiver met in the school's lobby just before noon, and it was a coin toss to see who was more nervous. They were brought together by the good folks at Pepsi, sponsor of an online contest that rewarded the winner with a visit from a National Football League player.
Christina, wearing a No. 82 Ravens jersey, classmate Mira Hitzges, and older sister Julia Catalano, an eighth-grader at Kent County Middle School, waited by the front door, anxiously looking through the glass windows for any sign of the guest of honor. The Catalano sisters talked football like a couple of old pros, comparing Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco very favorably to Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, New England's Tom Brady and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick. But better than all of them, they agreed, was Smith.
"He looks like a future Hall of Famer," said 13-year-old Julia. "He makes catches that ordinary players can't make."
On cue, or so it seemed, Smith arrived moments later, having driven himself from home in Carroll County. He was dressed causally in a pair of faded jeans and a hooded gray Ravens sweatshirt.
After being welcomed by Principal Dawn VanGrin, Smith shook hands with Christina and her family, and then headed off to a classroom for a short personal visit. He autographed a few items, including the football jersey that Christina was wearing, and posed for a "team photo" with Christina and her classmates.
Escorted by VanGrin and the Catalano family, Smith made his way to the gym, where the rest of the students and staff most of them dressed in purple were waiting to meet him. Smith and Christina walked hand-in-hand to the front of the gym, which had been decorated with purple balloons and two banners with his picture on them. Smith patiently and politely answered questions asked by the school's student leaders.
Smith, 24, told them that he graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in criminal justice, and that if he wasn't a professional athlete he might be a police officer or a lawyer. When he was their age he wanted to be a veterinarian.
"The most important thing," he said, "was to graduate so that I have options."
While he is hopeful that he will have a long and successful football career he has just finished his second year Smith said that he wants to be known for having an impact off the field.
That is why he has established the Torrey Smith Foundation, whose mission is to provide support to at-risk youth with physical, educational and financial challenges, and to help people who have been affected by domestic violence.
Winning the Super Bowl, he said, was like "getting an A on your paper, every paper, every test. … For us to get to the top, it's a feeling you'll never forget."
Christina Catalano gets that. She said meeting Smith was "fun, exciting, an experience I never had before. I still can't believe it."